Reviving Waterville: Colby College Is Catalyst for Downtown Rebirth

Our partner colleges and universities constantly make us proud at Capture Higher Ed. That’s why we were delighted to see the recent multimedia feature on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s website about Colby College and its catalyzing efforts to revitalize downtown Waterville, Maine — its home for nearly 200 years.

The feature, “A College Gives Back to the Town That Once Saved It,” was produced by Julia Schmalz, senior multimedia producer at the Chronicle, and shows what has happened in Waterville’s classic New England downtown over the past five years, as Colby rallied the community and investors to raise millions in capital and embarked on several major transformative projects.

Some historic poetry to Colby and Waterville’s story is that it was the town that actually saved the college in the early half of the last century. Founded in 1813, Colby was located in downtown Waterville for its first century. But, by the early 20th century, the school had outgrown its campus.

“It was hemmed in by the river and the railroad, and it had to move,” says David A. Greene, president of Colby College. “The people of Waterville came together and bought this land on a beautiful hilltop and deeded the land to Colby to keep the college here in Waterville.”

At that time, the city was a growing, thriving mill town, but the college was struggling, Greene explains.

“Because of what the people of Waterville did, Colby was able to survive … and become just an extraordinary national college. One of the greats in this country. While at the same time, Waterville has struggled. So, it was very important for us to think about: how could we continue to join with the city, in this partnership, to right now be in the place to help Waterville in the same way Waterville helped Colby.”

To learn more about the many initiatives underway in Waterville, check out the Chronicle’s video.